China’s Nuclear Idiosyncrasies and Their Challenges

Poliferation Papers No. 47Ifri’s Security Studies Center has just published the issue #47 of its Proliferation Papers series entitled:

China’s Nuclear Idiosyncrasies and Their Challenges

Jeffrey Lewis is the Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. He is also an affiliate at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation. Previously, he was the Director of the Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative at the New America Foundation. Dr. Lewis is the author of Minimum Means of Reprisal: China’s Search for Security in the Nuclear Age (MIT Press, 2007) and publishes, the leading blog on disarmament, arms control and nonproliferation.

His new Proliferation Paper can be downloaded here.


In many respects, the People’s Republic of China’s nuclear arsenal and posture appear unusual to Western eyes. From its “No First Use” policy to its nuclear warhead storage system, Beijing appears to think about nuclear weapons and their strategic effects in a way that differs with the West in general, and with the United States in particular. This paper offers an understanding of the sources of these idiosyncrasies and how they shape the Chinese nuclear posture. It then argues these differing conceptions can be a source of misunderstanding during negotiations and dialogues, which can be damaging to crisis stability and hinder bilateral cooperation and confidence-building with the United States. The paper finally outlines a proposal for a Joint Statement on Strategic Stability that might help both parties to better manage stability issues in the region.



China’s Nuclear Policies, Forces and Posture Today

Differing Conceptions About the Role of Nuclear Weapons

Challenges in Dialogue

Potential Misunderstandings in Times of Crisis

A proposed Joint Statement on Strategic Stability



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